The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity participates in a ceremony
at Monte Albán in Oaxaca. (Photo from SDPNoticias / Lucía Vergara)
A Discourse of Divisiveness: Al Giordano and Mexico’s Social Movements
By Scott Campbell
On September 28, Al Giordano, founder and publisher of NarcoNews.com, published a lengthy article on the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity and its time in Oaxaca. Taking the political landscape of Oaxaca as a jumping off point, the main gist of Giordano’s piece was in pointing out the distinctions between the activities and rhetoric of the left and those of Javier Sicilia and the caravan. In the dichotomy he creates, Giordano comes down firmly on the side of Sicilia – one needs to read no further than the sub-headline where he distinguishes between the “annihilating language of the left” and the “language of humanity of drug war victims” to grasp the argument he is putting forward.
In Giordano’s view, “the left” is stuck in a no-longer relevant posture of confrontational and militant rhetoric and action which does not resonate with the everyday individual surviving in a country wrecked by neoliberalism and the violence of the state and drug cartels. He posits that Sicilia’s movement of Gandhian nonviolence with its post-partisan focus on common humanity – from the victims of the drug war all the way up to Felipe Calderón – creates a bond based not on ideology but shared loss, pain and grief, a bond which does resonate with the Mexican populous, and is something much more preferable to what the left has to offer.
A scorched earth attack on the left
Now, when you set up a contrast like that – between a side with humanity and a side that is annihilating – it makes tearing down one and raising up the other rather simple. In doesn’t hurt to throw in some unsubstantiated take downs, such as that those annihilators “gladly will jump on the caravan buses and accept free food from many of the poorest indigenous communities in the nation…but who seemed to be doing so with a grimace on their faces.” Or to imply that they are so out of touch they care more about politics than their own dead family members, as he does with Omar Esparza, whose wife Bety Cariño was assassinated by paramilitaries in 2010. At a caravan stop in Huajuapan, Giordano states Esparza, “said nothing about his late wife…choosing instead of offer a boilerplate political speech of the sort that gets made at so many other political meetings and protests.” He also inaccurately labels Esparza as a spokesperson for the anarchist-leaning group Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL) when in fact he is a member of the Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement (MAIZ). This error takes on more significance when Giordano notes that after speaking, Esparza invited someone from the Stalinist Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR) to speak and implied that the invitation involved “some kind of organizational log-rolling or concessions” on the part of the annihilating left, as VOCAL and the FPR do not get along, to put it mildly. However, since MAIZ and the FPR do frequently work together, the invitation is no surprise at all. When you create your own straw man, it’s easy to knock him down. Problem is, in the end it still is just a straw man of your own creation.